Friday, December 22, 2017

Will Canada’s Latest Boom in Tar Sands Oil Mean Another Boom for Oil-by-Rail?

Gogama, Canada, oil train derailment in 2015. (Credit: Screen shot, CBC News) Click to Enlarge.
Nothing seems able to derail the rise in Canadian tar sands oil production. Low prices, canceled pipelines, climate realities, a major oil company announcing it will no longer develop heavy oils, divestment, and now even refusals to insure tar sands pipelines have all certainly slowed production, but it is still poised for significant growth over the next several years.

In March an analyst for GMP FirstEnergy commented, “It's hard to imagine a scenario where oilsands production would go down.”

But with pipelines to U.S. refineries and ports running at or near capacity from Canada, it's hard to imagine all that heavy Canadian oil going anywhere without the help of the rail industry.

“The oilsands are witnessing unprecedented growth that we now peg at roughly 250,000 barrels per day in 2017 and 315,000 bpd in 2018, before downshifting to roughly 180,000 bpd in 2019,” says a new report from analyst Greg Pardy of RBC Dominion Securities.

However, much like shale oil in the U.S., increased production doesn’t necessarily mean increased profits.  The Wall Street Journal recently reported that since 2007 investors have spent approximately a quarter trillion dollars more on shale production than those investments have generated.

Clearly the oil industry will keep pumping as much oil as they can even while losing large sums of money.  And just like in the U.S., Canadian oil producers are facing significant economic challenges, which have caused some companies to get out of the business.

As a result of these challenges, forecasts for future tar sands production have fallen significantly.  In 2013 the forecast for 2030 production was 6.7 million barrels per day.  That has been revised down to 5.1 million barrels per day.  While that is a sizable drop in expected future production, the industry will still be growing in the near future, and most of that oil will be exported to America.

One question currently up for debate is just how that oil will get to American refineries and ports.

Read more at Will Canada’s Latest Boom in Tar Sands Oil Mean Another Boom for Oil-by-Rail?

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